Appeals Court Rules Graduation OK on Saturday

From Religious News Service

A Long Island school district may hold a high school graduation ceremony on a Saturday despite an objection raised by a Jewish student and his father, a federal appeals court has ruled.

In overturning a decision made last August by U.S. District Judge Jacob Mishler, a three-judge appeals panel stated that "in a pluralistic society such as ours, it is impossible for government to accommodate every need of every religious group."

The case was brought by the American Jewish Congress on behalf of David Smith, a student at North Babylon High School, and his father, Conservative Rabbi Richard Smith.

Rabbi Smith first approached school board officials when his son entered the high school four years ago. He said he didn't want to be accused of waiting until the last minute to try to have the traditional Saturday graduation day changed.

The school district said it would inconvenience other participants to have the ceremony on a day other than Saturday. It cited an informal poll of the community that found that 406 residents opposed the change and 346 approved.

In ruling on behalf of the Smiths last August, Mishler said the privilege of attending one's graduation ceremony is an "important benefit." But the appeals panel said the "important benefit" is the diploma, which David Smith will receive whether or not he attends the ceremony.

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